I love Bakersfield. In a lot of ways, life in Bakersfield just keeps getting better.
In my opinion, we enjoy a very high quality of life in Bakersfield. We enjoy great parks, short commute times, a vibrant downtown and easy access to all of the amenities in the rest of California. We live in a growing city with, according to a recent study, some of the most affordable housing in the state.
The California Energy Commission is considering updates to building energy codes which would make living in Bakersfield even better. These updates will ensure that the cost of housing and energy costs stays reasonable by using one of our greatest local assets: abundant sunshine.
The proposed building energy efficiency standards, to take effect in 2020, would make new homes even more energy-efficient than the current codes require. That means families will save on energy bills and have an easier time staying in their homes. After all, homes are only affordable when you can afford all of the cost of the home including keeping the lights on. High utility bills can quickly make what was an affordable home something that is out of reach.
Energy efficiency is a no-brainer. It’s our cheapest energy resource. And spending less on energy means more money in people’s pockets, which feeds straight into direct benefits for our local economy. On average, if you spend a dollar on energy, only 28 cents of that dollar stays in the local community, but 75 cents of every dollar spent on other goods and services remain in the local economy. That’s a powerful economic driver that helps bring new opportunities and businesses to our revitalized city.
The standards — known as Title 24 — would also feature a pioneering policy change: all new California housing is to have access to renewable energy, like rooftop solar panels, which are very efficient in Bakersfield. California energy standards were first adopted in 1977 and have saved Californians billions of dollars in reduced energy bills.
This makes good sense in the San Joaquin Valley, where sunshine is plentiful. We are home to 24 percent of the state’s solar generation and 54 percent of the state’s wind generation. That has no small effect on our economy. When you add up all the direct and indirect jobs in these industries, you’re looking at a total of 88,000 jobs. Requiring solar panels on homes would help grow our renewable energy industry, creating even more good-paying local jobs. While keeping our housing stock affordable, I installed solar on my home 10 years ago. It has now paid for itself, and my energy bills continue to be reduced.
Clean energy is also good for everyone who breathes here. Toxic air pollution from industry, agriculture and the other sources have fallen 80 percent in the past 25 years because of the investment of our businesses and the hard work of our citizens. Cutting back on the required energy for our housing means even less air pollution.
As I ride my bicycle through Bakersfield every day, I see — and feel — the benefits of having cleaner air. To me, more breathable air goes along with other positive trends we’re seeing in our city, including a revitalized downtown, better parks and improvements in transportation. Building a new generation of homes powered by clean, renewable energy is a logical next step — one that will build a healthier, more prosperous future for everyone who calls Bakersfield home.
Bob Smith is the vice mayor of Bakersfield and the founder of Bike Bakersfield. He is a civil engineer, planner and builder.